Jung Ho Kang’s stint in the Dominican Winter League has been cut short after 24 unsuccessful games, Jee-ho Yoo of South Korea’s Yonhap News Agency reports. Kang was released by Aguilas Cibaenas after hitting .143/.219/.202 with one homer, two doubles and a 31-to-8 K/BB ratio in 92 plate appearances. His four errors were tied for the team lead (though the two players with whom he tied had each played at least six more games).
The 30-year-old Kang sat out the 2017 season on the restricted list and was not paid, nor did he accrue MLB service time, after a third DUI conviction and a suspended jail sentence in his native South Korea prevented him from securing a work visa in the United States. Kang was granted an exemption from the restricted list to play in the Dominican Winter League, but his tenure there has ultimately proven to be brief in nature.
As far as a potential return to the Majors is concerned, Kang’s release from the Dominican Winter League won’t necessarily impact that possibility. His fate is still tied to his ability (or lack thereof) to secure a work visa to return to pro ball in the U.S. For the Pirates, it’s conceivable that the poor showing could enhance the team’s desire to bring in additional infield depth this offseason. That was already a possible need — albeit not necessarily a critical one — given the uncertainty surrounding Kang and the trade of Gift Ngoepe to the Blue Jays.
[Related: Pittsburgh Pirates Depth Chart]
General manager Neal Huntington told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette’s Bill Brink back in September that the Pirates, at a certain point, would have to “plan as if [Kang is] not going to be here,” so it wouldn’t be a surprise to see Pittsburgh bring in some depth pieces. That said, the club figures to utilize a trio of solid veterans in Josh Harrison (second base), Jordy Mercer (shortstop) and David Freese (third base), with veteran Sean Rodriguez (acquired from Atlanta in an August swap) and the younger Adam Frazier on hand as alternatives. Infielders Max Moroff and Chris Bostick are also coming off solid minor league seasons and fairly brief MLB cameos, so they could factor into the mix next season as well.